Thursday, September 16, 2010

What is nicotine addiction?

Nicotine is the tobacco plant's natural protection from being eaten by insects. It is a super toxin that, drop for drop, is more lethal than strychnine or diamondback rattlesnake venom, and three times deadlier than arsenic. Yet, amazingly, by chance, this natural insecticide's chemical signature is so similar to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine that once inside the brain it fits a host of chemical locks permitting it direct and indirect control over the flow of more than 200 neuro-chemicals.
Within ten seconds of that first-ever inhaled puff, possibly through dizzy, coughing and six shades of green, nicotine arrived at the brain's reward pathways where it generated an unearned flood of dopamine, resulting in an immediate yet possibly unrecognized "aaah" reward sensation. Sensing it would cause most first-time inhalers to soon return to steal more. Nicotine also activated the body's fight or flight pathways releasing adrenaline, and select serotonin pathways impacting mood and impulsivity.

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